City Monument – Mirza Ghalib’s Statue, Jamia Millia Islamia University
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Although he’s one of the world’s great poets, spending most of his life in Delhi, there’s nary a statue of him in the Capital.
How is it that Mirza Ghalib got so neglected? After all, his acclaimed letters and poetry help us understand the social and literary worlds of 19th century India.
Well, OK. There is one exception to the apparent neglect.
Here on the lawns of Gulistan-i-Ghalib garden in south Delhi’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, a thin brown dog is quietly snoozing under a statue of Ghalib himself, perched on a plinth.
Dressed in a long flowing robe, the poet looks more like a lawyer than the author of famed verses—that are essential in Urdu and Persian literature. This afternoon the garden is sparsely peopled; only a few student types are lolling on the green grass enjoying a rare day of blue sky and friendly sunshine.
Elsewhere in Delhi there are at least two Ghalib busts, but not full-body statues: one of them at Ghalib Institute in central Delhi. It figured in a Delhi tableau during a Republic Day parade years ago.
The other bust resides in a small museum in Old Delhi’s Ballimaran—the site of Ghalib’s last home that functioned as a coal yard until some years ago.
But the statue at Jamia compensates for the lack of commemoratives. Larger than life, it’s so massive that the poet’s hands seem larger than his head.
He’s holding a book in one hand, and the other is raised as though he is reciting a poem. Perhaps on a quiet day, and armed with a Ghalib book, you can imagine him doing a reading.
The only Ghalib